35W Bridge, Who Knew?

Well, this was supposed to be returning to the usual blog antics, but I just don't have it in me to post on some bald birds today.



Here is a link to a flickr account of a photo series of the bridge collapse taken from a boat on the Mississippi River. A friend of NBB's sent the link. They were having their company party and taking a boat ride along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities. They were 15 minutes away from being right under the 35W bridge.

My heart and thoughts go out to people still waiting to hear information on loved ones, and for the injured and dead. I think of all the construction workers who have been walking the bridge, wondered how they are from the fall. The number of dead is remarkably low, especially when you think about the bus that was full of 60 kids coming back from a summer field trip. I'm proud of all the Minnesota spirit. So many acts of heroism, especially the people who came from their own wrecked vehicles and ignored their own injuries to get the children out of the bus.

I think so many of us in the Twin Cities are shell shocked about the bridge because it could have been any of us or our friends and family on the bridge at that time. One of the advantages of where our apartment is located is that we are right next to major highways to get anywhere quickly. I used the 35W bridge daily--sometimes several times a day to get to The Raptor Center, to go to Hawk Ridge, Target, my friend Amber's home, Bill used it just 24 hours before it collapsed to visit our buddy Jody the librarian. It never seemed like a bridge--it was a four lane highway, you never really thought of it as a bridge--it was big and safe. It had one of my favorite views of downtown Minneapolis, and I remember once driving over on a winter night and the crow roost had been disturbed. It was 10pm and the overcast sky was kind of purple from the reflection of the city lights and you could see thousands of crows swirling over the bridge in the night sky--an owl must have flown through.

Yesterday, I was taking a long drive home from Indianapolis. It had not been a pleasure visit, and I was chewing on unblogable events on the drive home. I approached a highway bridge in Illinois that was having some construction done, it was very high above a large river. Panic suddenly bubbled up from inside me, I had sense that I could fall off at any moment. My hands were shaking, my heart pounding in my chest. If there had been space to pull over, I would have. There was no place safe to pull over, and I tried to get hold of myself, "What is this? You drive over rivers all the time, you are safe. You already hate to fly, you're not going to be afraid to cross bridges."

The panic passed, and I focused on the birds flying over. This has NEVER happened to me before, I've never been afraid of falling off a bridge. I attributed it to stress from the visit. I entered the Twin Cities at 6pm. Nearing my home, I put in my ear piece and called my mom to tell her that I had made it back to the Twin Cities safely. As we talked and I was on I-94 approaching 35W, I saw news helicopters circling close together. I thought that it was odd, but just thought that there must have been a bad accident. As I passed the exits for 35W that dump onto 94, I braced myself for the stand still traffic that comes at that exit at that time of night. There was no traffic and I made it to my exit with ease. As I hung up from my mom, I thought how odd that I got through rush hour traffic so smoothly, but remembered that lots of construction had been happening and 35W and maybe traffic had been rerouted while I was gone--that would also help explain the news helicopters.

I still had my ear piece in and called out to my phone to call Bill to warn him that I was five minutes away. The phone didn't dial. I tried it four times, each time, the call didn't go through. Finally, the fifth time it went through and I gave him the warning. Finished with my calls, I turned on the radio and heard the unfamiliar voices of tv anchors on my radio station. I came in during the middle of the report. From what I gathered, there was a fire on 35W, several cars involved, sounded like ten cars. Also, it sounded as if part of the 35W bridge had collapsed. I thought, "Well, that explains the helicopters, there's a really bad accident and perhaps with the construction some part of the road fell in the river."

We came in and turned on the tv and saw that the whole bridge fell in the river, during rush hour. I had no idea of the magnitude of what happened. We immediately tried to call friends and family to touch base, and couldn't get our calls out. The news said cell phone companies said to clear the lines, emergency calls weren't getting through, so I put the notice in my blog--which I'm so glad I did. This morning I'm finding all kinds of cell messages that I didn't get from family and friends who couldn't get hold of us last night.

I thought back to my panic on the highway bridge in Illinois earlier in the day. I'm not big believer in psychics or esp. But the coincidence does have me thinking--was it some kind of sixth sense triggering a warning. Probably not, but it was strange nonetheless.

Now the magnitude is really setting in. This was a major connection between Minneapolis and St. Paul, it handled a huge amount of traffic, it's going to take time to figure out new routes. Early reports say that we won't have a new bridge for year...I think it's going to be even longer than that. I'm thinking that we are a few years away from having a bridge again. Authorities have to figure out what happened and then there has to be a redesign and then construction, it's hard to wrap your head around this one.